When you send your work in a personal email to those who could hire you, consider, how do you stand out? I love getting emails from filmmakers! First, it takes me out of whatever I’m rushed off my feet doing, and reminds me of starting out, of ambition, of creative sparks and new ideas. I quickly scan for any surprises of new work, or a sense of curiosity—who is this person that would like to work with ME? I’m kind of always honoured that they found me in the first place, and then curious as to why.
Here are some things that work for me to get you on your way, but the clues of what is nice to include are noted above!
1. Carefully craft your email subject line.
This is the one that helps remind us what your email is about, who it is from, why I should look at it again, and makes it searchable in my inbox. Don’t put: "Hello," "Introduction," or "New Work." Do put: "Hello / Your Name Here," "Introduction / Seeking Representation," "Introduction / New Talent," or "New Work / Your Name Here."
2. Don’t make it a blind date 😉
Be sure you clarify what you’d like to bring to the recipients’ attention in the first couple of lines. For example, you can say the following: "I am a filmmaker looking for representation," or "I am a filmmaker working freelance and I think my work is of interest for you."
3. When showing off your work, don’t lead with commercials. Lead with your art, your voice, and then tell me how you used it successfully on commercial work.
I want to get to know YOU. Passion projects, photography, your favorite experiments—all of these are good examples of what to include/mention. Of course, if your approach is about being represented for commercial work, then DO show off your commercial work. But what I’m saying is: Don’t forget to present YOU.
4. Add personality but stay professional.
The email should have a beginning, middle, and an end, and not be too long. You should also be mindful of making your tone too casual. Please don’t email me like you’re texting your childhood best friend. We don’t have that shorthand quite yet.
5. Try and keep it concise on the first approach.
Include helpful information, like where do you live/work, how long have you been directing, what interests you, and include links to social media if applicable. Tell me if you write and edit, but don’t yet send me your ideas. Just give me enough to get our potential relationship going.
6. Be sure to put a bit of time into researching who you are writing to and why you think your work suits them.
Are you reaching out to the right person? All successful emails for me have had some form of care and therefore matched what I am interested in or can help with. They addressed me personally and they mentioned something about Lief they appreciated. Some even mentioned how Lief could improve with their work; they took the time to help me connect the dots.
Avoid generics and any noticeable copy/paste jobs. These tired generics include: changes in font and style, not putting my name at the top, and phrases like, "You must get thousands of emails," or, "I love what you guys do"(Huh? Guys?).
7. Believe in yourself.
It’s my job to be interested in new work, talent, and watch what YOU have made with interest. So you don’t need to apologize or fill the precious email space with reasons why I should watch it. "You must get thousands of emails" sounds apologetic and you don’t need to be!
8. Remember: we get a lot of emails, and try to get back to every one in good time.
Our response times can sometimes take longer simply because there isn’t an opening for work, so it's not an immediate priority to review and respond. Don't call my mobile phone to confirm if I received your email. Do send a follow up email when you have something new to show, an update, or a question. Otherwise, feel free to follow up a month later to check in and ask for a more definitive answer.
9. Your biggest competition is not other directors, it’s my time. Give value somehow.
This goes back to my opening: Make sure the email gives me something, like a new piece of work, a way to get to know you, or a small anecdote on how you got to make your favorite piece. For example, if you tell me that you learned how to shoot on your iPhone and cut this little short on iMovie on your phone to experiment, I’m going to be looking at it differently than if you just say, “Here’s a short.” And then I’m going to most likely say to my Creative Assistant, “Hey, learn how to cut on iPhone iMovie because that works!” That way, we both learned something and I enjoyed getting your mail.
10. Thank you for YOUR time. Lief looks forward to seeing your work. My expectations are high. Believe your work is good, and may the force be with you 🙂